Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Take - Week 17

Greetings, G-Force.

I hope that your Christmas Holiday was as vibrant as mine. My apologies for the delay in the take. I've been indulging in vacation. A couple of solid hikes through Baird's Creek. A plethora of sublime family time. And an evening in "Ecstasy" with Rusted Root.

Any way, G-Force, it is not time to push the panic button. I hear people talking about our need for gaining offensive momentum and the need for getting a win as we move into the playoffs. For me, while these things are great, I think the Packers simply need to go out and play a strong 1st Quarter. We are a young team who is still forming an identity. Hence, as fans, we worry that negativity will carry over from week-to-week. However, our youth and carefree mentality is one of our greatest assets...especially after a disastrous showing against our arch rival.

In 7 of the last 8 games, the Packers have scored at least 27 points. You don't lose your offensive rhythm in one week! In my mind, we froze in the cold after the Bears first possession. Prior to kickoff, the Packers looked ready. Favre looked excited. He was pumping his fists with enjoyment and anticipation. However, this was followed with a Bears possession that lasted in excess of 10 minutes. At this point, I feel that the Packers offense became more concerned with staying warm than scoring points. I would argue that had the Packers stopped the Bears on 3rd down early in the game - the Packers offense would have been more fluid.

We took one on the chin in Chicago. It took a couple of days to swallow the loss, but I've got G-Force clarity and last week is behind me. Bring on the Lions.

This week is about staying healthy and moving into the bye with a confident Defensive Line. If the Packers are to make a Super Bowl push, the Defensive Line must be the catalyst. We must return to our early season roots on defense. In 5 of the last 6 games, the opposition has had a rusher eclipse 100 yards. Frankly, this concerns me. We need an immediate solution.

Pickett must be at 100%. I would not even consider playing him tomorrow. Tomorrow, I'd force him to ride the bike for an hour and then I would have him run the treadmill. Stay in shape, big boy! Corey Williams, in a contract year, continues to be pushed backwards on run downs. I'd replace Williams on run downs with Harrell. While Harrell has been hit or miss thus far, he's showed the occasional ability to hold the point of attack. Last week, he had 5 tackles (4 of them were solo).

Additionally, we have struggled to get pressure from the D-Line. I would rest KGB tomorrow as well. He has not been himself since his ankle injury against Detroit on Turkey Day. Replacing Williams with Harrell on run downs would allow for Williams to be well rested and physically prepared to rush the passer on 3rd down.

Mother Nature is calling for the mid-to-high 20's. Low winds. Slight flurries. Ahhh, Lambeau in December. How beautiful!

The Lions are banged up as they walk into Lambeau. Kevin Jones and Roy Williams will not play. Therefore, I expect the Lions to use a mixed bag of players to attack our defense. The Lions will try Calvin Johnson deep and over the middle on 15-20 yard crossing routes. They will put Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey in the slot and try to let them make plays after the catch. Sean McHugh will be involved with short down and outs and roll outs. TJ Duckett will pound away at the interior of our Defense. Aveion Cason will be utilized via the screen and dump offs. And it sounds as though Tatum Bell might be activated this week. He's been out since Week 5. I'm not sure how effective Bell will be, but nonetheless, at times, Bell has been a productive NFL runner.

Duckett will be getting his first start of the year. He's averaging 5.9 yards per carry this year. Against us on T-Day, he ran for 29 yards on 7 carries. If Duckett rushes for over 4 yards per carry tomorrow, we will be in trouble.

Early in the game, the Packers play to stop the run. Chuckie and Al are left on islands. Bigby inches closer to the line of scrimmage. The Packers set the tone. They show attitude. They show athleticism. They play with passion and a defensive conviction. Lambeau elevates. Personally, I will lead the charge in my first visit to Lambeau in '07.

The Packers stuff the run. Martz gives up on the run and attacks the secondary, notably Willie B. Willie B. responds and gets the Packers off the field on 3rd down with a pass defensed.

On offense, the Packers come out with 4 wide (I'd be surprised if Jennings plays). Grant as the single back. I expect immediate traction from the offense. Favre to Driver on the first play of the game. Offensive rhythm. Grant on the draw. Favre to Jones. Favre to Lee. Favre to Martin. Favre to Franks. Favre to K-Rob for 6 points.

The critics are quieted. Our offense does not have static. Our offense has electricity.

The Packers jump out to an early 17-3 lead. And then we rest. I'm excited to see performances from Daniel Muir, Michael Montgomery, Willie B., Tramon, Desmond Bishop, and Brandon Jackson. In the preseason, I thought that Muir showed tremendous potential. I'm curious to see him get real life game experience.

Late in the game, the defense rises to the occasion. Craig Nall leads two drives for FG's.

Green Bay 23. Detroit 20.

The Packers finish 13-3. 7-1 at Lambeau. The victory is sweet. The rest is sweeter. For the most part, the Packers are healthy for a playoff push.

I'm excited to be in the stands. Tomorrow is a celebration.

Have a Happy and Safe New Year,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Take - Week 16

Greetings, G-Force.

Merry Christmas to you! I always cherish the Christmas game. I'm thankful that it will be played outdoors. I hope that their are light snow flurries. Mother Nature is calling for partly cloudy. Highs of 22 degrees. Urlacher's breath flowing in the wind as he calls signals. Followed by Favre's breath smoking through the air as he calls an audible. Yes, this is football. This is Packers-Bears. This is defining of the greatest sport in America.

Soldier Field. A tremendous football venue. A 2nd home to Brett Favre. In Chicago, Favre remains Public Enemy #1. Long after he retires, he'll remain the same.

The Bears are the defending NFC Champion. They started last year with a 26-0 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field. This year they are 5-9 and searching for a pulse. Their season is dead. Their offense is inept. In one year, the physical nature of their offense disappeared.

Last year, the Packers entered December at 4-8. 4 wins later, the Packers finished 8-8. Last year was capped with a nearly identical score, 26-7. Only this time, it was the Packers who were victorious.

The 12-2 Packers enter Soldier Field banged up on the defensive line - especially at DT. Jolly and Cole are out. Pickett is banged up and questionable for Sunday. No question, this will affect the interior of the Packers defense. I'm sure the Bears will bang away at the middle of the Packers defense. Justin Harrell, Daniel Muir, and Corey Williams will be put to the test. I expect Cullen Jenkins to play a heavier role at DT as well this week. It'll be the young Packers defensive line against the aged offensive line of the Bears.

For the Bears, Adrian Peterson is running hard. He gives it everything he's got. He's got the ability to break tackles and occasionally, he's slippery. However, he's not a game breaker. I'd be surprised if he eclipsed 80 yards. Nick Barnett and AJ Hawk will be MEN this weekend.

The Packers will feast on Kyle Orton. Expect the Packers to be able to pressure with only 4. KGB has not performed well since his injury. But, this week, if given the opportunity, Kampman
and KGB will dominate. They will force Orton into bad decisions. They will meet take Orton to the ground via sacks and knockdowns.

The Bears will attempt to counter by keeping Peterson in the backfield to block. They'll try to find Peterson on the screen. They'll look to Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark on short routes. They'll try to expose Brady Poppinga's covering abilities. They'll also attempt to get the ball to Hester on short routes in hopes that he can make magic happen. And they'll occasionally take the deep shot to Berrian. We'll be prepared.

On offense, the key word is protection. Protect Favre. Protect the football. If we don't turn over the football, we'll win in a blowout.

No surprise - the Packers will spread out the Bears. 4 wide. Single back. The Bears cannot cover the Packers. And other than our ability to block Tommie Harris, our offensive line matches up well with their defensive line. So, we come with the quick hitters. K-Rob gets involved early. Ruvell Martin on the crossing route. Driver is involved. Jones catches and hangs onto the football. Jennings takes a 15 yard slant for a big one.

Ryan Grant gets back on track as the Packers show the diversification of our offense. We pound away at the once mighty Panda defense. The offensive line gets to the second line of the Bears defense. Urlacher and Briggs show their frustrations.

On Special Teams, Hester does not touch the ball with significance. And our special teams has the potential to turn the field in our favor.

It's an early Christmas present from Brett. We're moving to 13-2. This week is about dominance. It's about stomping on Soldier Field and playing as NFC North Champions.

Packers 30. Bears 16.

In other games:

The Cowboys travel to Carolina. The upset bird is swirling in Charlotte. The Cowboys are crumbling. Suddenly, their offense lacks rhythm. Jessica Simpson is a topic of conversation in their locker room. Tony Romo is nicked up. Andre Gurode will be missing on their O-Line. Roy Williams is suspended. Emotionally, drama has entered the lives of the Cowboys.

Chris Gamble locks up TO. Julius Peppers, if healthy, is in the face of Romo. Matt Moore, the rookie QB, is playing with confidence. Looking for Steve Smith. Coach John Fox puts Moore in position to win by controlling the clock. Banging away with Foster and De'Angelo.

The Carolina crowd feeling the Christmas spirit is loaded with excitement for the national audience. Early in the game, the Cowboys look rattled. Look for this one to come down to the 4th Quarter. In the end, the Cowboys bite their finger nails to a 23-16 victory.

The Redskins travel to Minnesota. The 'Skins football life on the line. Washington's aggressive defense slows down Adrian Peterson. They force turnovers. Tavaris Jackson making mistakes. The Redskins pound away. Possessing the football. Chris Cooley moving the sticks.

In a slow moving game, it's the Redskins winning 20-19. The Redskins playoff hopes are alive! And Dallas visits in Week 17.

Merry Christmas to everyone. I'm headed to Green Bay. To God's Country. To the North Pole. Where Santa resides. And this year, in his bag, Santa is presenting an NFC North Trophy to Green Bay. We've taken the NFC North crown from Chicago. We're going after their NFC Champion trophy.

Somewhere, John Lennon is singing, "And, so this is Christmas..."

Go Pack Go,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Running Over the Rams...

Greetings, G-Force.

In the wink of an eye, my Winter Wonderland vacation to Green Bay, WI bettered itself. The Seahawks loss coupled with the Packers win gave us a 1st round bye. Reason for celebration. Philly defensive dominance over the Cowboys brought meaning to the rest of the Regular Season.

Now, there is no such thing as resting players. The Regular Season is about continuing to find traction. It's about keeping the momentum rolling. It's about peaking at the right time.

The victory at St. Louis was great. However, in my mind, it was not Super. I'm not being a bad buzz. I'm being who I am, which is an optimistic realist.

First off, props to the fans that made the trip to St. Louis to support the Pack. PatRad, Mark, Jason, you made a difference. The "Go Pack Go" chants were heard through the TV. Pat yourselves on the back.

Twice, I thought the Packers had a chance to put the dagger in the Rams by showcasing the Championship Drive. When the Packers got the football in the 4th Quarter after Jeff Wilkins missed the FG, I thought that a TD would have secured the victory. We moved the ball down to the 7 yard line and stalled. The FG was nice, but the Rams kept the lead at 2 scores.

No worries. The Packers get a stop. Followed by great field position, but Favre threw the pick which prevented the Packers from generating a 3-score lead.

So, enough with me nitpicking. This was a great win for the Packers. It was arguably our best Special Teams since the '96 Super Bowl. Think about that. As I jogged through my memory bank, the only game that I could think of was the 2001 Buccaneer game at Lambeau when Allen Rossum returned a late punt return for a TD and a Packer victory.

K-Rob, T-Man Williams, and Willie B. have changed the face of our team. They're clicking late in the season. They're making us more dangerous. It's an added element to an already thriving team.

They said that we could not run. And then 6 of the last 8 games, Ryan Grant ran for at least 88 yards. Additionally, he's scored 6 TD's in the last 6 games. The skeptics were quieted. There were questions about our return game. Then Willie B. goes wild against the Raiders. Then against the Rams, K-Rob and Willie B. both provided great field position for the Packers offense.
'Tis the season to be Jolly! Johnny, that is. Boy, do we miss Johnny Jolly. Jolly and Pickett were a tremendous run stuffing tandem. Corey Williams has not been a stalwart run stuffer. Williams became the everyday player when Colin Cole went out against Detroit. In Williams' three games as a starter, he has 5 tackles and no sacks. For informational purposes only, Justin Harrell has 6 tackles in the last two games combined. Corey Williams is playing for a contract. I'm on record as saying that I hope the Packers show him the money, but Corey Williams must earn that money RIGHT NOW.

Admittedly, our defensive line is starting to concern me. At times, in consecutive games, the Panthers, Lions, Cowboys, Raiders, and Rams offensive lines pushed us around. The Raiders did it with the least success, but Fargas did run for 3.8 yards per carry. To me, much like early in the season, we're slowly becoming a bend but don't break defense. I thought that we were becoming a dominant defense during the stretch against Washington, Denver, KC, Minnesota and the first half of the Carolina game.

I am encouraged because the defense has made game changing plays. Props to Ras-A-tari who has temporarily quieted the critics with 3 picks in 2 games. Yesterday, the Packers had 4 sacks and 2 interceptions. Against the Rams, Nick Barnett played the best game of his NFL career. 13 tackles, all of them solo. 2 sacks. Barnett played like a fierce mad man. He played with a vengeance. He was the leader of the defense. He showed why he deserves a Pro Bowl berth. AJ Hawk played with aggression. He had 7 tackles, all of them solo. He also had a sack. We knew that we could get to the QB if we blitzed. Barnett and Hawk proved us right.

However, if teams are going to try to run right at us, Brady Poppinga must elevate. If Poppinga cannot be a force against the run, he does not have a spot in our starting line-up. Brady, do not over pursue! Keep your gap! Play your lane! Attack!

In closing, cheers to Brett Favre! Another record. Favre to Driver was fitting. Another victory. 2 more TD's, which leaves him 4 short of 30. He's passed for 30 TD's eight times in his career.

12- 2. The Bears on tap. Dallas at Carolina on Saturday night. Washington at Minnesota on Sunday night. The Packers need a Washington victory so that the Week 17 match-up between the Redskins and Cowboys has playoff implications for the 'Skins. Does it get any better than


It's Bear week,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Take - Week 15

Greetings, G-Force.

The Packers roll into St. Louis surfing a high wave of confidence. All of a sudden - the Offense, Defense, and Special Teams are all showing signs of clicking. Moreover, the magic number for a first round bye is down to 2.

If my memory serves me correctly - Favre is 1-2 at the Edward Jones Dome. However, this Dome is host to one of Favre's most dismal performances ever. No worries! Favre and the Packers will be ready to battle the Rams this weekend.

I must admit - I have not seen a lot of the Rams this year. I watched the last 3 minutes of their home loss against the Seahawks and in order to scout St. Louis, I watched the replay of their game last week against Cincinnati. You gotta love the privileges of DirecTV.

Though the Rams are 3-10, they are still playing with fight. They are still playing with fight and they are competing until the last snap. The Rams will not lay down this weekend. They remain the type of team that could sneak up on the Packers, if we are not prepared.

It appears as though Marc Bulger will be the starter. He took all of the snaps from center during Wednesday's practice. Bulger has a unique relationship with his receivers, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Clearly, more often than not, they are all on the same page. Bruce and Holt present a tremendous challenge for our secondary. Moreover, Drew Bennett scares me. Bennett has had a less than average season. In fact, I imagine that he is mightily disappointed with his performance thus far this season. But, against our 3rd CB (whomever that may be), he does hold an advantage. Bennett is a veteran, seasoned receiver who is known for crisp route running and an ability to make plays in traffic. Randy McMichael is not going to fly by anyone, but he is fast and strong enough to make a difference and create an obstacle for the Packers defense. We must pay attention to McMichael.

It took Steven Jackson 10 weeks, but he's running in the right direction these days. He's run for at least 90 yards in each of the last 4 weeks. He, too, offers a clear and present danger. He's a threat via the air and on the ground. He's averaged 4 catches a game over the last 5 weeks and he must be contained. If Jackson gets rolling, this game could throw a curve ball.

While scouting the Rams, I viewed a defense that needed to be attacked. Expect Ryan Grant to run right at the Rams defense. La'Roi Glover is still impressive, but he is only an image of the way he used to perform. At times, Adam Carriker showed potential, but for the most part, I thought that he was slow off the ball and that you could run right at him. Carriker can be pushed backwards. James Hall has always been a speed rusher, but he, too, is the kind of guy that you can run towards. Victor Adeyanju does not appear to be a play-maker.

At the LB position, the Rams also looked weak on defense. Will Witherspoon is solid in pass defense, but he is not a solid run stuffer. He has active hands as he tackles...loves to go after the football and will blitz the QB. He has 7 sacks this year and the Rams love to have him blitz on early downs. Against the Bengals, he seemed to be attacking the line of scrimmage on nearly every down. To my eye, Brandon Chillar and Chris Draft are liabilities. The Packers will take advantage of their presence.

Surprisingly, after watching the Rams-Bengals game, I was very impressed with the Rams secondary. In fact, immediately after watching the game, I logged onto the internet to learn more about #21 Oshiomogho Atogwe. Atogwe is a play-making safety. I found out that he has 5 interceptions. He did not intercept any passes last week, but he made certain that Chad Johnson was quiet over the top and every time Carson Palmer looked Chad Johnson's way, Atogwe was in the vicinity. Johnson did make one play, but he was held to 2 catches for 60 yards. It should be noted that last week ended a 4 game streak in which Atogwe had an interception. Atogwe's partner at safety is Corey Chavous. Chavous knows the Packers well as he is a former Viking. At one time, Chavous was on the brink of becoming a premier safety in football.

In my opinion, the Rams have two overly aggressive CB's in Fakhir Brown and Ron Bartell. Bartell also gets his hands on balls and he has a nose for finding the football. He'll put his shoulder in a receiver's chest. He picked off one pass last weekend and should have had two more, but he did not hang onto the football. Bartell seems to put himself in position to make plays. He'll attempt to jump routes. Fakhir Brown has 4 interceptions including one that he returned for a TD last week. He, too, looked like a guy that wanted to jump routes and make the big play. But, both players looked like guys that should be attacked.

This game will be won at the line of scrimmage. Thankfully, will should not have to watch Coston attempt to throw a block in the open field. The Packers should simply line up and pound away. Look for Grant to have a field day - especially right up the gut. You can pound away against the Rams front 4. Ball control. Ball control. Ball control. Early in the game - we pound away. Grant for 6. Grant for 7. Grant for 4. Grant for 3. Grant for 13. We can pound away at the interior of the Rams defense.

Slowly - we can open up the Rams defense. They have no depth at CB. Either late in the first half or late in the 2nd half, we hand the ball to the "Sportsman of the Year." Favre. 5 wide. Magic to a football fan's eyes. Dissecting the defense. Threading the needle. Finally, once again, Driver finds the end zone.

Defensively, we must contain Jackson. We should apply pressure nearly every down via the tackles. To me, Alex Barron and Brandon Gorin looked like they could be beaten almost every down. Look for the Packers to blitz a safety this week. I would like to see the Packers rush Kampman against Gorin. Kampman comes on the bull rush. The safety comes to the outside of Gorin. The Rams will not have a response.

On the other side of the line, I'd like to see KGB come with the outside pass rush against Barron. He can beat Barron to the corner. I'd send either Hawk or Barnett between the guard and the tackle. Their will be a large gap and the Rams will not be able to double team. However, we must watch the screen. So, for example, if Barnett is blitzing, it is Hawk's responsibility to watch Jackson. And vice versa if Hawk is rushing Bulger. We cannot let Bulger find his rhythm. Pressure on the QB will disrupt his form. Plus, he's coming back from a concussion and you have to consider the fear factor.

On Special Teams, Willie B. is once again unleashed! Crosby's kicking woes won't continue as he'll be in the dome.

In football, good teams have the ability to consistently come up with what I call the "Championship Drive." The "Championship Drive" normally occurs in the middle of the 3rd Quarter. In most instances, it's a two score game. The "Championship Drive" makes it a three score game essentially puts the game out of reach. The "Championship Drive" can also occur in the middle of the 4th Quarter when it's a one score game and you finish off the opposition with a punch-you-in-the-mouth-TD. Wayne Larivee calls it "The Dagger." At this point, mentally, the dagger has been inserted into the heart of the opposition. A prime example of the "Championship Drive" came last week. The Packers were up 17-7. Just over 9 minutes left in the game. The Raiders were hanging around. One play later, it was Favre to Jennings for 80 yards and the Raiders had lost hope.

Earlier in the year, we saw this drive against the Vikings - the second time we played them. We opened up the 2nd half with a 13-0 lead. We came out with a 5:30 drive and pounded it down their throats. Championship Style. The next thing you knew - it was 20-0 Green Bay and Minnesota was defeated.

In my mind, we are learning what it takes to become a Champion. We are building towards something special...and possibly even Super.

This week - the Rams hang tight for a half. The Packers hold the lead at halftime, but mid way through the 3rd Quarter...the Packers come out with 4-wide. Spread 'em out. Let Brett go to work. Favre to Driver gets us started. Grant on the draw. Favre to K-Rob for a first down. Jennings gets involved. The Packers find the end zone. The Packers take that commanding three score lead. Once again, it's evidence! Evidence that we have the killer instinct. Evidence of the "Championship Drive."

Green Bay 37. St. Louis 23.

The Edward Jones Dome becomes Lambeau Field this weekend. I'd be surprised if at least 25% of the stadium is not Packer fans. PatRad, Mark, Jason, enjoy the game! Bring the G-Force! Bring us a victory! Make a difference. Leave hoarse! Let the good times roll...

In Championship Form,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Tribute to Brett...


Good Day to You.

The below article was written in the LA Times. It's a couple of weeks old. Craig Papka sent it to me. Somehow - it ended up in my junk mail...I found it and it needed to be published...

Carry On,

Talkin' S-Mac.

On bended, creaky knee, in homage to Favre

Brett Favre
Paul Sancya / AP
Packers quarterback Brett Favre set a Green Bay record with 20 consecutive completions and finished with a season-high 381 yards and three touchdowns in the Packers' 37-26 victory over the Detroit Lions last week.
Packers quarterback is having his greatest season yet, playing like a legend, and a scrub who just appreciates the chance to suit up. He's an everyman whose work ethic is a marvel.
By Chris Erskine, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 29, 2007
NBC has "Bionic Woman." The NFL has Brett Favre, the bionic man. Guess which one is having the better season? I don't know what you're eating, Mr. Favre, but pass the candy dish.

You're maybe the last American hero. A postmodern DiMaggio. A Wyatt Earp. You're about 140 years old, with the smile of an 8-year-old and a gun like Zeus.

You do all the things the other superstars don't. You play in that city by the bay, an obscure little place with more chipmunks than people, more deer rifles than cellphones. Up there in northern Wisconsin, you don't ride in limos; they just send over Santa's sleigh.

You're us, which isn't so bad -- at least if you ask us. You're not some natty dude, a blingy gold-toothed Liberace. No three-pointed kerchief in your suit pocket, like the male mannequins back in the Fox studio. No sir. You wear your hair like the 18th green, short and fast. You could comb it with a golf towel.

Yep, we appreciate your sense of style -- the plain gray T-shirts and the faded jeans. You've got that same lovely wife you started with. Your beard's getting a little frosty, the jowls a little puffy, but she's stuck by you, that woman. Through your tough times. And you through hers.

Love your loyalty, love your work. The cynics claimed you were done. "Retire, fool," they said last season. "Put a fork in Favre. His popper has popped."

Turns out they were the fools. They forgot you were part Choctaw, part '56 Chevy. You're having your greatest season yet, playing like a legend. And like a scrub who just appreciates the chance to suit up.

Sure, your wheels don't work like they used to. People forget that you have the same degenerative hip disease that permanently sidelined Bo Jackson. At 38, you can sprint with the kids for about three half-steps, then . . . look out . . . cruuuuuuunch. Those first steps on a Monday morning must really snap-crackle-pop. Talk about a working stiff. Welcome to the club.

When you're not at work, you're at home, just like the rest of us middle-aged saps. I'll bet she's already nagging you about all the Christmas junk, huh? Brett, can you bring those boxes up from the basement? Brett, how about hanging the outdoor lights on the birch tree? That sort of stuff. Like the rest of us, you don't need a holiday to remind you of your blessings.

Yep, you're us all right, and we couldn't be more thrilled. You don't like to miss work under any condition. It's just the way you were raised. A guy thing. You don't miss work. In almost 300 games, including two Super Bowls, you haven't missed a start. It is the sports stat of our time.

And we certainly don't mind your sense of craft, your safecracker's cool. One moment, you're zinging thunderbolts across the middle. The next you're looping nine-iron shots in the end zone. The laser bomb that beat the Broncos? Boom! Brilliant.

You're what we all hoped to become in the backyards of our youth. You play as if you're hanging with your pals, and the sun is setting and the moms are calling everyone home for supper. Come on, Brett, your buddies say. One more. One more series. . . .

Blanda. Nicklaus. Aaron. They all played their respective games a long time, gave us old-timers hope. Now you're our time machine, our fountain of goof.

Tonight you'll play the Dallas Cowboys, that little franchise down in Texas that has always given the Packers fits. How great is that, a Cowboys-Packers game that really matters? Lombardi will be watching from his skybox, barking out commands, wondering where the hell Hornung is.

Also cheering will be millions of gimpy guys a little past their prime for whom you've become this year's most compelling sports story. An inspiration. A Perseus in cleats.

So, come on, Brett. One more. One more series. . . .

Monday, December 10, 2007

Willie B!

Greetings, G-Force.

The day was November 13, 2004. I had wanted to go to the beach. My wife, Alana, rejected the notion - instead insisting that we went to the Ale House (a local pub) as she wanted to go watch her beloved Mountaineers from West Virginia host the Boston College Eagles. It was mid-4th Quarter, the Mountaineers were scratching and clawing to stay alive. And then Willie B. entered my life. I had seen him prior to this game. I had enjoyed his abilities as a playmaker. But, 71 yards later, he had put the dagger in the hearts of the Mountaineers and forever, I would remember Willie B. as having the potential to be something SPECIAL. In fact, on November 13, 2004, Willie B. had me elevate out of my chair and spill my beer with a dramatic "OH" as he danced down the sideline in Morgantown.

On draft day, April 30, 2006, in the 4th round, the Packers drafted Willie B. Immediately, I called My Father. I called my cousin, Ryan. I called Stack. I called Wos. I called Vargas. In my eyes, the Packers had drafted GOLD in the 4th round. An absolute steal. I truly felt this way.

On October 20, 2006, I was sitting on Lincoln Rd on South Beach, two days before the Packers were to host the Miami Dolphins. I was talking to Richard Evans, Neil Buethe, Josh King, Matt Roffers, and Russ Thompson (Richard, Neil, Josh, Matt, Russ - PLEASE SPEAK UP!). One name was continuously mentioned - Willie B. This was supposed to be the first game that Willie B. showed himself. Yes, he played in the game, albeit sparingly. Once again, Willie B. got nicked up. Essentially, his season was over...before it began...

On Family Night, August 4, 2007, Willie B. performs in front of the Lambeau audience. Essentially for the first time. In the scrimmage, Willie B. picks off two passes.

In the preseason opener, at Pittsburgh, on August 11, 2007, Willie B. shows flashes as a punt returner. Once breaking loose - only to have it called back by a penalty on the other side of the field.

On August 18, 2007, Willie B. showed he was dangerous in his first preseason game at Lambeau. He ran 83 yards to set up the Packers first TD.

On August 23, 2007, at Lambeau, against Jacksonville, once again, Willie B. displayed his knack for finding the seam in the oppositions special team.

Then, came, the injury. Again, this year. Willie B. goes down in the preseason. Once again, injury seemed to have doomed this bright talent. I even wondered if he had "Tyrone Wheatley syndrome." You know - that guy who has all the talent in the world. The ultimate athlete. A physical specimen. But, the guy just cannot stay healthy. The guy that cannot keep himself on the field. Yeah, I call that the "Tyrone Wheatley syndrome."

Then came December 9, 2007. Willie B. in his second punt return as a Packer. 57 yards. A Packer TD. In fact, before the kick, I turned to Alana and Vargas who were sitting on the couch and said, "He could take this one for a Touchdown!" He must have heard me. I had waited 3 years for the moment. I was jumping up and down - literally - in my family room...Vargas wondered if I was going to hit my head on the ceiling.

Willie B. - sometimes you just have to wait for the good times to come to you...

This is not the story of "I told you so." Rather, this is a story of rejoicing. It's the Holiday Season. It's December in Green Bay. Where Legends are told at Lambeau. It's always fun when YOUR team gets YOUR the Packers getting Charles Woodson, my favorite college player ever...or when the Packers draft Derrick Mayes - the only Notre Dame football player that I ever liked...or when Willie B. FINALLY makes his appearance. Yes, I'm a kid at heart, mind, soul and spirit.

Willie B., thank you. It's the Holiday Season - which is the season for giving. Thanks for my early Christmas gift. It was truly special. It's a treat to see you with your ghetto limp...with your shoulder tilt...with your swagger as you "Jump In The Stands." You do it was such honor...such grace...such style...such swagger.

Willie B., you've helped define the 2007 Packers as team. And you've added another element for teams to think about as they prepare for defeat.

G-Force, be stoked...cuz #27 is returning kicks!

Running like a butterfly - stinging like Willie B.,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My Take - Week 14

Greetings, G-Force.

The Packers trip to Dallas did not turn out the way that we had planned, but I'm not overly disappointed. Sure, at times, the Packers were extremely out-classed. But, for the most part, I feel as though the Packers coaching staff out thought themselves. Offensively, early in the game, we left our brand name in Green Bay. We returned to the Packers of '05. Deep passes into coverage. Once the game got to 27-10, we settled down and played Packer football. Dink and dunk you to sleep. Let our receivers make plays. From then on, we were successful.

Clearly, the Cowboys took advantage of our depleted defense. And, it's also noteworthy that on the 2 biggest plays of the game, the Cowboys were the dominant team. On 3rd and 19, the Packers defense could not rise to the occasion. And on 3rd and 6, Clifton was beaten badly by Ware. To me, those two plays describe the game. We can complain about the officiating, which was awful, but the bottom line is that twice we were down 27-24...with momentum on our side...and a big 3rd down in front of us...and both times the Cowboys swung the momentum in their favor.

Regardless, we must win 3 of our last 4 to guarantee a first round bye. And frankly, it does not scare me to play at Dallas in January with a fully loaded squad.

It starts against the Raiders this weekend at Lambeau Field. We will learn a lot about the '07 Packers this weekend. Mother Nature is calling for snow showers with temperatures in the low-to-mid 30's. Combine this with the Raiders '07 football philosophy and this Sunday has become interesting. However, no worries, Packer fans...

The Raiders attack with Justin Fargas. Fargas has been running well over the last 5 weeks. In fact, 3 times he has exceeded 100 yards. He's also a decent threat out of the backfield catching the ball. He runs hard. He runs fast. He plays bigger than he looks. He's developed into a decent back. The Packers ability to control Fargas will be defining this week. Hold Fargas under 100 yards and the Packers will win this one easily.

Josh McCown will lead the Raiders into Lambeau. McCown is surprisingly mobile. He's agile enough to escape pressure. He'll avoid the rush and get to the perimeter of the defense. He can make plays on the run with either his hands or his feet. Good news is that he will throw the ball into the laps of the defense as he occasionally makes brainless decisions.

Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter are decent threats. Both are physical and normally display good hands. Zach Miller has improved throughout his rookie campaign and has turned into a go-to guy. He's had at least three catches in the last 4 games and last week he had two big third down catches to keep the chains moving as the Raiders fended off the Broncos.

Defensively, at times, the Raiders have played solid football. You know that Warren Sapp is excited to see Brett Favre once again. Derrick Burgess can flat out rush the passer, but I imagine he'll have trouble this weekend as he is a speed rusher and thrives on playing on a clean surface. I imagine Lambeau will be too choppy for him.

The Raiders have two terrific LB's. Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard are young guys who consistently make plays. They fly towards the football and are strong against the run and the pass. Both have a nose for the ball. They will make us work for yards on the ground and will have their eyes set on jumping slant passes.

If the weather holds, the Packers will have a ton of success against the Raiders secondary. Fabian Washington is a young corner who is still growing and can be taken advantage of. Nnamdi Asomugha is a bright young NFL CB, but he has struggled with injuries and has not been the same player that he was last year. Chris Carr is a dangerous kick returner, but a below average nickel CB. Michael Huff has an exciting NFL career ahead of him, but he, too, is not their yet. Stuart Shweigert will be in position and he will hit you, but he's not a playmaker.

Assuming the weather turns for the worst, this will be a test for this young Packers team. They are not battle tested when it comes to playing big time football games in cold weather. But, I feel really good about it. Our defense has had 10 days to rest. They know that they MUST win the line of scrimmage. I expect Kampman to have a monstrous game. I expect Jenkins to get a push. It seems as though I've been calling for Jenkins to make a big play for weeks, but in the past, he has been a guy that has played very well late in the year. Cullen Jenkins, it's YOUR time to shine. This team is about TEAM and though there is no "I" in team, there is an "M" and an "E" and Cullen, this week - you provide your "me" and you do your part. I expect to see a lot of 3rd and long this weekend. At some point, the ball will land in the lap of our defense for a big turnover.

Just a thought - don't be surprised if Bigby is benched in favor of Rouse. While, Rouse and Collins play the same position, McCarthy is the type who likes to have his best players on the field. McCarthy has shown his frustrations with Bigby's play.

The Packers say they are going to be cautious with Chuckie. We need Woodson on the field, not in exchange for the rest of the season, but we cannot chance anything. Defensively, we are starting with ZERO this weekend. We have the ability to shut them down.

I see the offensive line playing with a fire in their belly. They got beat up against Dallas. The Packers coaching staff will demand performance. Our O'Line will respond. Early on, it's a day on the ground for the Packers. Grant runs right behind Lee and Tauscher for 7 yards. Grant pounds the middle for four and a Packer first down.

I've been calling for this play for weeks as well and I'm hoping for it this the Oakland LB's creep forward, the Packers set up the screen and the Raiders think it is sniffed out, but Favre throws the ball to the weak side. It's WIDE OPEN. It's either Lee standing their arms wide open or it's Jennings running the drag route. Either way - one of them is streaking down the side line. If it's Jennings, it could be 6 points.

Any way, this is a pound it out, beat you up style of football game. The Packers will be prepared for this one. We will be well rested. Mentally fit. Physically ready. We will pound Grant. Morency will get his chances. B-Jack will see opportunities. In all, we RUSH for 150 yards.

Favre is efficient. Calm in the pocket, Favre picks his spots and manages the game. In the cold weather, each yard counts and Favre knows this almighty important notion. Favre, the Sports Illustrated "Sportsman of the Year," goes to work. He throws for 200 yards and three short TD's.

Green Bay 31. Oakland 13.

And the Packers regain their winning ways. The Raiders enter the cold and cannot wait to get back on the bus. The Packers enter the cold and cannot wait to celebrate. And the magic number for a first round bye drops from 3 to 2. From a theatrical sense, there is something magical about Lambeau in December.

Let It Snow,

Talkin' S-Mac.

P.S. - > To Al Davis, I hope you don't mind, but this year we are borrowing your "Just Win, Baby" slogan. The NFL does not respect us. The media does not respect us. Clearly, the officials do not respect us as well. So, Al, with or without your permission, we'll continue to "Just Win, Baby" and ultimately, someone will take notice...who knows, maybe, just maybe, that respect will come after we meet the Brady Bunch in AZ in early '08. Until then, Al, thanks for the trademark. One last thing Al - On Sunday, we're winning, baby.